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East Texas car dealership closing its doors because of bad economy

Retail sales plunged by the largest amount on record in October as the financial crisis and the slumping economy caused folks to sharply cut back on their spending. KLTV 7's Bob Hallmark has the story of an East Texas car dealership, the first to close its doors because of slow sales and financing.

Bob Francis has been in the auto sales business for 31 years, the last 6 owning Bob Francis Ford in Rusk. But today, was his last day.

"It's been just several things, all you have to do is pick up a newspaper and see whats going on in the economy the world and the automotive industry. It's a shock to think all of the sudden there will not be a Ford Dealership in Rusk, Texas," said Francis. He's had tremendous support from the community, but he says the problem facing all dealerships is simple.

"I think the overriding factor now is just consumer confidence," said Francis. Francis' reputation around Rusk was that of a straight shooter, an honest man you could do business with, so the news of his closing even had customers coming by to pay their condolences.

"It's real tough, because I depended on them to fulfill my needs in a vehicle, they are good friends of my wife and me," said Jay Richardson.

"Folks have come by and shared with me, prayed with me," said Francis.

He spent his last day in business thinking of others, and trying to find jobs for his 15 employees.

"I know I've got a lot of food and tables to provide food on, coming down to this decision. My employees have been the most important part of it," said Francis. "That's my focus is getting everybody a job."

He sees the future of the auto industry as perilous, but wouldn't trade his experience.

"I got to work with some really great people, but this has been one of my greatest joys is to have a dealership and do things the way we want to do them," said Francis. Francis is working to liquidate his inventory. He says he and his family will take some time off and decide what his next venture will be.

Bob Hallmark, reporting. bhallmark@kltv.com

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